Shri Shrila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
Parama Gurudeva of Bhaktiratna Sadhu Swami
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada was known as 'simha' (lion) 'guru' due to his fearless and ferocious preaching. If an impersonalist saw him on the street, the impersonalist would cross the road in fear, or turn off onto another street. Those who didn't, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta would go up to and shake them violently, his huge body towering over them, and say, "Why do you say the Lord has no form? Nonsense offender!"
We have already mentioned his birth and some of his early pastimes in conection with his father Srila Bhaktivindoda Thakura, and his 'Guru' Srila Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji Maharaja.
He appeared on February 6th 1874. Father was deputy magistrate of Puri, had been for three years. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur had been concerned that the pure teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would be usurped by unauthorized persons, who were members of 13 apasampradayas and so he prayed for a Ray of Vishnu. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura had started his mission for Lord Caitanya late in life. He was also very busy with his profession. But he wrote profusely, and wanted someone to preach boldly to establish these pure teachings.
The Padma Purana predicted Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati: a very elevated, pure and learned personality would appear in Purushottama-ksetra to spread the glories of Lord Jagannatha all over the world. His activities would be very unique.
When he was 6 months old, the Rathayatra was held. The cart stopped in front of Srila Bhaktivinoda's house (which was on the main road between the temple and the Gundica mandira. The cart stayed there for 3 days. On the 3rd day, Bhagavati devi (mother of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati) brought out the child and the 'pujaris' picked him up and put him on the cart. He crawled to the base of Lord Jagannatha, and touched His lotus feet. Simultaneously a garland fell from the neck of the Lord and landed around the child. The pujaris exclaimed that this boy is particularly blessed by Lord Jagannatha.
The 'Annaprasha' festival (first grains ceremony), first grain taken by children which is usually given when the first sign of teeth are there something like six-months old, so for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati the first grain was Jagannatha Prasada. Vimala devi is offered the 'prasada' after Jagannatha takes; hence his name Bimala Prasada. When during the 'Anna-prasna' ceremony the child is shown the 'shastra' and coins to give some indication as to his nature by what he goes for baby Bimal chose the Srimad Bhagavatam as opposed to the gold coins.
When he was five family had become senior deputy magistrate: only three of these in all of India under British Raja. Mango incident happened at this time. Never again took ripe mangos. But he took green mango chutney offered by his disciples; this was a favourite of his.
When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was 7 years old, his father Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura moved to Calcutta, to the "Bhakti-Bhavan" house was building. While digging foundation they found Deity of Lord Kurma. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave him his first initiation and the name Siddhanta Saraswati; and initiated his son into the worship of Lord Kurma. He was doing this every single day without missing. Even when he was admitted into school.
He was a very expert student. However his preference was to study the Vaishnava books of his father. He did just that and studied books of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, but never fell behind in school - he remembered everything after hearing it once. His teachers were astonished, and his father was very pleased.
As a boy, Bimala Prasada delivered his oldest brother Acyutananda from an offense he'd made in his last life. Acyutananda had a nervous disease, and once became very sick. Bimala Prasada took 'karatals' and chanted the 'Hare Krishna mantra' constantly for 6 days without eating. Then Ramanuja-sampradaya 'tilaka' appeared on Acyutananda's forehead. He said, "I am a Ramanuja Vaishnava. I committed an offense to a Gaudiya Vaishnava in my last life and therefore had to take this birth. Now I am relieved." Then he left his body for dead.
In 1892, after passing his entrance examination, Bimala was admitted into the Sanskrit College of Calcutta. There he spent considerable time in the library studying various books on philosophy. He also studied the Vedas under the guidance of Prithvidhara Sharma. As a student he contributed many thoughtful articles to various religious journals. However he did not continue with his college studies for long.
We told this story before, but from another angle; Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had taken initiation from Bipin Bihari Goswami, who came in the line of Gadadhara Pandit, through Janavi Devi. However once when Bipin Bihari Goswami was visiting Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the Thakura paid obeisances and Bipin Bihari Goswami placed his foot on Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's head. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati saw this and was surprised. He thought this was a dangerous thing for Bipin Bihari Goswami to do. When Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura left the room, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura asked him a question: "You are my father's 'guru'. But do you know who he is?" Bipin Bihari Goswami was taken aback at this 7-year-old's question. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati continued, "My father is a 'nityasiddha', an eternal associate of the Supreme Lord. Do you have sufficient spiritual potency to place your foot on his head?" Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura returned at this time, so the conversation was interrupted. Bipin Bihari Goswami said, "Your son is bold to the point of being rude." Later on, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura found this out and used to tell this story to his disciples.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in Krsna-lila is Kamalaman-manjari, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati is his eternal assistant, Nayana-manjari. At age 13 he started higher education. Once Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura returned from Puri with Tulasi and initiated his son into chanting Hare Krsna Mahamantra and he also took 'Nrsingha mantra' initiation, 'ugram bhiram maha-vishnum'.......etc.
During this time he invented, and developed a shorthand script called 'Vikanta', so much was his genius.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, after seeing the wonderful vision of a golden 'mandira', began begging door to door for funds to establish the Yoga Pitha. At 18, Srila (Bhakti) Siddhanta Saraswati entered Capital Sanskrit College affiliated with Calcutta University. Within a short time mastered the 6 limbs of Sanskrit studies: 'shiksha', 'jyotish', 'chanda', 'alankara', etc.
When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was 22 he left college to avoid taking householder life. He took up work under the king of Tripura. Tripura had been turned to a Vaishnava state by the king of Manipur, who was a disciple of Narottama dasa Thakur.
So Srila Bhaktisiddhant Saraswati became Raja Pandit there for 3 years. He retired with full pension, which Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati accepted for a few years and then voluntarily stopped.
Around this time he took initiation from Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji. Srila Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji had been a grain merchant before taking 'babaji'. He'd gone to Vrindavana and did 'bhajana' for a long time. Then he came to Navadwipa. By this time Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had retired and had built a 'bhajana kutir' in Navadwipa (Godruma). He gave Srimad Bhagavatam class there every day. Srila Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji used to come to these classes. Srila Bhaktivinoda told Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati to accept Srila Gaura Kishora as initiating 'guru'. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati approached Gaura Kishora, asking "Please give me your mercy." Gaura Kishora answered, "Mercy is not mine to give. It is the property of Lord Chaitanya Himself. I'll ask Him, and if He agrees, I can give you."
Second time they met, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati inquired, "Did you ask Him?" "No, I forgot." Third time same thing happened. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati said, "You worship that great cheat, Krishna, Who is cheating everyone. And so you are also cheating me. But if you continue in this way, I will simply give up my life, because my life is useless without receiving you mercy." Then Gaura Kishora das Babaji gave initiation to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati as Varshabhanavi-devi dasa. Then Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati gave up all other activities to chant 194 rounds daily for 7 years. He had a 'kutir' but did not spend the time to repair the roof; he just used an umbrella if it rained.
In 1897 he started an autonomous Catuspathi ('Sanskrit' school) wherefrom monthly journals entitled "Jyotirvid", "Vrihaspati", and many old treatises on astrology were published. In 1898, while teaching at Sarasvata Catuspathi, he studied Siddhanta Kaumudi under Prthvidhara Sarma, at Bhaktibhavana. By the time he was twenty five he had become well versed in Sanskrit, mathematics, and astronomy, and he had established himself as the author and publisher of many magazine articles and one book, Suryasiddhanta, for which he received the epithet Siddhanta Sarasvati in recognition of his erudition.
In 1895 Sarasvati Gosvami accepted service under the Tripura Royal Government as an editor for the biography entitled Rajaratnakara, the life histories of the royal line of the independent Tripura Kingdom. Later he was entrusted with the responsibility of educating the Yuvaraja Bahadur and Rajkumar Vrajendra Kisore, in Bengali and Sanskrit. After a short period of time, Siddhanta Saraswati took up the responsibilities for inspecting various ongoing activities in the royal palace for the state of Tripura. However, after finding enviousness, malice and corruption surfacing in every corner of his inspection, Siddhanta Saraswati very quickly developed an aversion to state affairs and gave notice of his intention to retire to Maharaja Radhakisore Manikya Bahadur. The Maharaja approved of Siddhanta Sarasvati's plans for renunciation and awarded him full pay pension. However, after three years Siddhanta Sarasvati also renounced his pension. With his father, he visited many Tirthas and heard discourses from the learned pandits. In October 1898 Siddhanta Sarasvati accompanied Bhaktivinoda on a pilgrimage of Kasi, Prayag, Gaya and other holy places. At Kasi a discussion was held with Ramamisra Shastri regarding the Ramanuja Sampradaya. After this talk Siddhanta Sarasvati's life seemed to take a turn, his inclination towards renunciation increased, and he quietly continued to search for a 'sadguru'.
When Siddhanta Sarasvati was twenty six his father, understanding the mind of his son, guided him to take initiation from a renounced Vaisnava saint, Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji, who we will now bring into the picture. actually it is inpossible to separate these three especially, anyway we will do our best to shed some light on their all effulent forms. Although it is like shining a candle to illumine the Sun globe.
One disciple of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura who wanted to continue the mission came looking for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati in Navadwipa at this time, knowing him to be as powerful a personality as his father. He went around asking the locals if they knew of a sadhu matching Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's desciption, but they all answered, "We don't know of a sadhu, we only know of one madman. We see him moving here and there, crying aloud and sometimes rolling on the ground." So he went searching for him in the jungle next to the Ganga, where they said he sometimes could be seen. Suddenly he heard Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati crying "Krishna Krishna Haribol! Nitai Gaura Hari Bol!" He saw him burst out from the forest and plunge, fully dressed, into the Ganga. He kept on shouting in the water, splashing about. Then he came out. The disciple of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura then approached him, requesting him to come to Calcutta to head up the sankirtana mission there. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati answered, "Sankirtana? Can you not see the wonderful 'sankirtana' mission of Sri Caitanya right here in the holy 'dham' of Navadwipa? Is it not wonderful? Sri Pancha-tattwa are chanting and dancing in ecstacy, surrounded by all their associates. Can you not see this?" Then Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati ran off, again shouting "Haribol" in great ecstacy. As it was sunset by this time, that man took his bath in the Ganga, and mentally renounced the idea of organizing the 'sankirtana' mission.
But later on, in 1918, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati appeared at his door in Calcutta, in 'sannyasi' robes with 'danda', freshly shaven, and ordered, "Now we are founding a Society, the Sri Gaudiya Matha. Draw up the papers immediately and have it registered. Though he'd arrived at 4 p.m., the work was done before that same afternoon was ended.
Even before 1918 he decried the 'Jatigosai'/'brahmana' monopoly of giving initiation only to born 'brahmins'. He preached very boldly against them. The 'brahmins' challenged him, "where does the 'Gaura mantra' appear in any authorized scripture as a Gayatri?" (Because the Gaudiya Vaishnavas would take this 'mantra' as a 'pancharatriki mantra' for 'brahminical' initiation.) They said, "Sri Chaitanya claimed only to be a devotee. Why do you say he is the Supreme Personality Of Godhead and use His name in place of authorized scriptural names and 'mantras'?"
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati cited Chaitanyopanishad from the Atharva-veda, discoverd by Srila Bhaktivinode, 19 verses glorifying Lord Chaitanya. In another assembly he directly attacked the 'brahmins' and 'Jati Gosais'. He initiated the movement to take back the teachings of Lord Caitanya from the hands of such unauthorized persons. Srila Vishvanatha, Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana, his disciple Uddhava dasa Babaji, his disciple Madhusudana dasa Babaji, were all saintly renounced souls: after Baladeva there was no-one to strongly represent the pure teaching of Lord Caitanya and preach them boldly. During Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's time, Gaudiya Vaishnava meant Baul, Aula, Sakhi-Beki, Jati Gosai, etc. who were all degraded. The Vaishnavas got no respect. At this time the shaktas became strong from Rama-Krishna-Vivekananda, and this put further obstructions for the establishment of pure Vaishnava dharma. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati preached against all of this nonsense.
When Srila Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji Maharaj left the planet, the 'babajis' wanted to do the 'samadhi' rites. He'd said he wanted to have his body dragged through the streets by his "disciples". The 'babajis' had gathered to do that, they'd tied a rope around the neck.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati crossed over to Navadwipa from Mayapura and stopped them, saying "None of you are his disciples." Babaji Maharaja had one disciple, that one was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, (in other records it says he only had two disciples, the other was Vamsivata dasa Babaji Maharaja, who was an 'avadhuta'). "I am the right claimant to perform these last rites." They said, "But he was a 'babaji', and you are not." Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati answered, "Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji does not come in 'babaji' line. He was initiated by Nimai Chand Goswami, who was a Nityananda Parivat, coming in the line of Lord Nityananda. He received his 'Vesha' ('babaji' dress) from Bhagavata dasa Babaji Maharaja, who is an initiated disciple of Jagannatha dasa Babaji."
Before Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, from time of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, param-bhakta Vaishnavas would get 'Vesha' (white knee length cloth, 'koupin', waterpot and bead-bag) initiation, not 'tridandi sannyasa'. "Bhaktivinode Thakur also took 'Vesha' from Jagannatha dasa Babaji. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, though 'diksha' initiated of Bipin Bihari Goswami, received 'siksha' and 'vesha' from Jagannatha dasa Babaji. And Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji received 'siksha' from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's line is Bhagavata Parampara, not seminal line." So he challenged them to show that any such line came from Rupa or Sanatana Goswami. As to be a Rupanuga means coming in Bhagavata Sampradaya. Rupa told of Advaita's rejecting His own son Madhusudana because he accepted Lord Caitanya only, but not Lord Nityanananda.
"If you are Babajis, then you are fully sense controlled. So the one of you who has not engaged in any illicit activities in the past 1 year, come and do the last rites." No one stood up. "One month? One week? 24 hours?" No one stood up. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati then placed Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji Magharaj's body in 'samadhi'. So after finishing with the 'smartas', 'jati gosais', he took on 'Babas'. He would take on and defeat anyone solely to establish pure unalloyed, undeviated Krsna consciousness.
Then in 1918 he opened his first center in Ultadanga Road in Calcutta. He was then 44. Kunjabihari Vidyabhusana (Bhakti Vilasa Tirtha Maharaja) was his main manager and a prominent devotee in the Matha. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati had made a vow after taking 'sannyasa' that he would never touch money. Everything was arranged by his disciples. Many of them wishing to assist his mission took up responsible jobs, e.g. Kunja Babu became a post-master.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati did 'nagara kirtana' with disciples and was invited to programs by the King of Burdwan or the King of Kooch Bihar; everywhere he established Lord Caitanya's teachings as the most excellent spiritual philosophy.
He knew all Vaishnava philosophies most expertly. He brought out books on their 'darshans', e.g. Madhwacharya's arguments against Mayavadis.
As well as other Vaishnavacaryas like Ramanuja. In the temple he established in Mayapur he built 4 small temples in honor of the 4 Vaishnava sampradayas. He put the deities of the 4 founder acaryas there; Madhwacarya; Ramanujacarya; Nimbarkacarya; and Visnu Swami.
He started the Gaudiya Mission in the midst of war and national liberation agitation. He was uncompromising in his disregard of such mundane concerns. "The most important thing is to invoke the spirit of devotion to the Supreme Lord; this concern lies far above any material consideration." Many leaders objected, but he continued. In this period the aristocratic young Abhay Charan De (latter known as Srila A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada) visited Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati on the rooftop at Ultadanga Road; At this time Abhay charan De was adherent of the national liberation movement, but Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati convinced him in one sitting of the vital necessity of Lord Caitanya's mission over everything else.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's 'sannyasa': happened in 1918. He could have taken 'babaji' but didn't. Many 'babajis' wanted to initiate him, as he'd shown himself to be such a powerful exponent of Vaishnavism (e.g. his 3-day debate with caste 'brahmins' attended by Vaishnava scholars, in which he resoundingly defeated caste pretensions and established the Vaishnava view of 'brahminical' status by quality of work, not birth).
When he gave himself 'tridandi sannyasa' (or more correctly, had taken 'sannyasa' from a picture of Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji Maharaj), this was a shock to even his supporters, including disciples of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. The controversy was not over the method of initiation in this instant as some criticise him for. But over 'varnashrama'; they thought he was returning to the 'Varnashram-dharma' that Lord Caitanya had rejected in his talks with Srila Ramananda Raya. But the concern was for nothing, as he was not continuing the bodily 'varna'-and-'ashram' system, but was establishing 'Daivi-varnashrama'.
Srila Prabhodananda, Lokanatha Goswami were great Gaudiya 'sannyassis' of the past. Prabhodananda Saraswati converted a great 'smriti acharya', Gopal Bhatta Ghosh, and gave him 'tridandi sannyasa'. Srila Gadadhara Pandita was also 'tridandi sannyasi'. Without establishment of 'Daivi-Varnashram-Dharma', 'babaji' (supposedly, or with the concept of 'paramhamsa' initiation) will, as it had become a farce.
In this way Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati travelled and preached initially from Mayapura to Vrndavana and challenged the authority of the 'babajis', and others.
Some ritualistic and narrow minded persons found fault, as one can even do with the moon in the sky. "They protested that this was unauthorized." He said, "Everything I am doing can be supported by scriptural reference, but nothing you do can be. You take young boys who don't even know how to clean themselves after passing stool and giving them 'sakhi rupa.' I am giving 'samskara' to reform the fallen souls, and this 'samskar' is the 'Hari Nama', which Lord Chaitanya gave as the 'siddha pranali'. No rules of caste or creed bind this 'Harer Nama diksha."
Then they tried to say that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was not properly initiated in an established line. He disproved this. Srila Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji Maharaja was initiated in line of Nityananda, but he (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati) did not accept that line. In fact Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati rejected that line from Nimai Jatgoswami (line of Nityananda, Jahnavi, Bir Chandra Prabhu. Rather Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura stressed Bhagavata Sampradaya, and didn't care for material or seminal lines.
Therefore in his pranams the term, 'Rupanuga virrudhapa siddhanta', 'any conclusion against the precepts of Rupa Goswami is to be rejected immediately' is to be found.
In his life he founded 64 Gaudiya Math temples throughout India. For his further preaching and attempts to spread Krsna consciousness beyond the bounds of India, as his father had desired too, he sent three disciples to west, and he gave ten westerners initiation, mostly from young intelligent men from Germany and a couple of elderly women in St John's Wood in London, by sending sannyasis to Germany and England(Rupa Vilasa dasa. 1988. "Raya of Visnu".).
During this time Abhay Caran De (Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada) met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada. He was a young man - a 'khadi' clad follower of Gandhi's national movement. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, seeing this bright faced young man before him, convinced him of a necessity to preach Krsna consciousness. "In this world there is no shortage of anything, only Krsna consciousness." Srila Bhaktisiddhanta also requested young Abhay Caran De, "You are an intelligent young man. If you ever get money, print books in the English language." Our Srila Prabhupada was so impressed that he took this as his life's mission. Some eleven years later he took diksa initiation from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, who told his other disciples who printed the Sajjana Tosani newspaper on his order, "Whatever Abhay Caran writes, print it." He obviously knew his worth.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada was always eager to reveal transcendental knowledge. Whenever he found an eager listener he would go on speaking, not knowing bounds of time and space. Disregarding requests of his medical advisers, up to the last moment, he continued to deliver the message of the Supreme Lord to all people. This was his only purpose for his appearance in this world. All his tours were highly successful, though not without events because many of his disciples were not from orthodox 'Brahmin' families. Though they wore the sacred 'yajnopavitra', 'brahmin' thread of the twice-born, many so-called 'Brahmins' objected. Shops would refuse to sell their goods to Bhaktisiddhanta's 'brahmana' and 'sannyasi' disciples, even though according to the 'Pancaratrika' system of 'Vaisnava agamas', they were all properly initiated as 'brahmanas' and 'sannyasis'.
His whole life was spent in a mood of loving devotion to the Lord. He was fully devoted to spreading the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The numerous publications and commentaries on the works of the previous 'acaryas' establishing the Lord to be 'saccidananda vigraha' is quite evident of this fact.
In 1936, whilst residing in the holy dhama of Jagannatha Puri at the age of 62, he left this mortal world to again return to the loving pastimes of Sri Sri Radha Krsna in Brajaloka the topmost planet in the spiritual sky.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati used to "install" the printing presses that were acquired by the Gaudiya Matha for literature publication.
He gave many a heavy class on detachment from material life. Later, while writing, he observed a monkey stealing bananas from the godown, which was just next to his study. He ran out with a stick to chase the monkey away, overturning his writing table and spilling ink on the pages of his manuscript. When the cook saw this, he inquired, "Today you told that one must be detached. How to understand your behaviour just now - for two bananas you jumped from your writing to chase a monkey, and even ruined your work in the process?" Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati answered, "These bananas belong to Srimati Radharani, because they are to be used in Krishna's service."
He went to take a bath in a 'pukkur', and when he was seven steps above the surface of the water, the water rose seven steps and touched his lotus feet. Then all the 'brahmacaries' jumped in, to bath in the 'caranamrta'.
At the Yoga Pith temple was a cook who was very passionate. He fought with every devotee there except for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta himself. Then he died. After the funeral ceremony was completed, the Gaudiya Matha 'brahmacharies' were sitting together and talking about how much trouble they'd had with the cook - each was telling stories about the fights he'd had with him. Suddenly Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati appeared at the doorway and said, "He always washed his 'dhoti' nicely and was very clean." From then on nobody dared say anything negative about that cook. Although Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was renoun for his aggressive, and even 'chopping' attacks on the 'mayavadins' and other such offenders, he always showed true Vaishnava respect and appreciation for all of the devotees.
When one 'mayavadi sadhu' was preaching his oneness philosophy in the presence of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and his disciples while they were riding on a train from Calcutta to Puri, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta ordered his 'brahmacaries' to feed the 'sadhu' some rotten mangos which had been donated to his party earlier (they were ripe when donated, but got rotten because Srila Bhaktisiddhanta would not take them due to his vow, and therefore no disciple would take either). After being obliged to eat four mangos, that sadhu fell at Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's feet and swore he'd never preach the philosophy of exclusive undifferentiated oneness again.
His 'kirtana' procession (with him personally at the head) would stop all traffic wherever it went in Calcutta; in Puri even the brahmins accepted his 'nam-sankirtana' as fully authorized.
He stayed in Puri in his last days. He lectured for some days at the place known as "Goverdhana" in Puri, and before and after his talk he would recite prayers praising Goverdhana Hill and requesting shelter in some corner there. He would sometimes comment to his disciples, there's not much time left. They could see something was going to happen soon, but weren't sure what.
He got very sick ten days before he left his body. Two days later he wrote his last instruction: "Somehow we must become qualified to attain the shelter of Rupa and Raghunatha. Always chant Hare Krishna, always preach Krishna consciousness, and stay away from Vaishnava-aparadha. In this way become qualified to get the shelter of the lotus feet of Sri Rupa and Raghunatha." Two days after that he wrote his letter to Srila Prabhupada (Abhaya Charan De).
All the big intellectuals of Calcutta had a memorial gathering upon hearning word of his death. One (an atheist), in eulogy, said: "Who will we argue with now?"
The full life story of His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaja Prabhupada can be found in one very nice book which is a compilation and summary study of many books of the time on the life of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, and is entitled "A Ray of Visnu," as was prayed for by his father before his taking birth. This book is available through ISKCON, and was published by Rupa Vilasa prabhu, a disciple of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's father, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, had a vision one night on the other side of the River Jalanghi, opposite his house. In the open fields he saw a huge city made up of all Vaisnavas from all over the world. There would be Americans, Australians, Canadians, Africans, Chinese, Russian, English, every nation's devotees dancing together in transcendental kirtan and chanting "Jaya saci-nandana gaura hari." Astrologers predicted that a person of great saintly character, full in all Vaisnava qualities, who could build a house in which the whole world could live peacefully, would appear to set back the flow of Kali Yuga.
We have seen after the passing of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada, the Gaudiya Math underwent some difficulties. Although Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura had requested his disciples to come together as a 'Governing Body' to push on the mission after his demise, a couple of prominant disciple instead took the helm against his wishes which changed some of the intrinsic foundation of the Gaudiya Matha at that time. In relation to 'siksha' (instuctions) having precedence over 'diksha' (initiation) as a means of proper succession there came a splintering of the Gaudiya Matha because of neglecting the 'gurus' instructions. Since this time major valuation set-backs have been observed (A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Adi Lila Chapter 12 text 8., The Asara son's of Advaita Acarya.......!)
Following the instructions therefore provides a strength in continuity of the overall success and chastity of the followers in the line's mission or purpose. On examination we find some intrinsic differences in the rhythm, movement and systems tha eventuated after this point in time despite 'all being disciples'. In many instances the disputes have to date remained unresolved. 'The Gaudiya Matha and Its Missions', today has many lines and sub-lbranches coming from the disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada.
At this time (the end of the 1930's) the saintly figure emerged, who was to become notably one of the great 'acaryas' in Vaisnava history, although he remained in humble circumstances, preparing himself for the mission that would not only fulfil his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada's order, but would fulfil the desire of all the great Vaisnavas in the Brahma-Madhwa-Gaudiya Sampradaya and gain the praise and amazement of other 'sampradayas', religionists and scholars alike. That person is Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, known by his loving followers as Srila Prabhupada.
We are presently awaiting a wonderful book by H.H. Bhaktivikash Maharaj which he has researched for the last ten years by speaking to the last of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswatis' disciples who are remaining in their old age on the planet, on the life of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada.
A Ray of Vishnu
On the fifth day of the dark lunar fortnight of the month of Govinda [corresponding to February 6th, 1874 A.D. by the western calendar], at 3:30 in the afternoon, Bimala Prasad Datta, later to be known as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, made his appearance in Purusottama Ksetra [Jagannatha Puri] in the state of Orissa, not far from the temple of Lord Jagannatha. He was the fourth son of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Sriyukta Bhagavati Devi, and at the time of his birth all thirty-two bodily symptoms of a maha-purusa, a great personality, were pointed out by an experienced astrologer. Furthermore, the boy was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck like a Brahmin’s thread. The astrologer commented at his birth, “I have done many horoscopes in my life, but I have never before seen such a horoscope filled with all the signs of a great personality. This child will become world famous as a brilliant teacher of life’s ultimate goal.”
When the child was six months old, Lord Jagannatha’s Rathayatra Festival was in procession, and the cart stopped in front of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s house for three days. Following the instructions of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhagavati Devi brought the child before the cart and an offered garland fell from the neck of the Lord, encircling the boy. This was taken as a sign of special favor by all present. The grain ceremony was observed on the cart at this time and was done with Jagannatha prasada. When the boy’s vocational inclination was tested, he immediately embraced the Srimad-Bhagavatam, indicating his future as a preacher. Therefore, from the very beginning of his appearance, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura exhibited all the signs of an exalted, eternal associate of the Lord, who had descended in answer to Srila Bhaktivinoda’s prayer for a “ray of Visnu” to help him spread the Krsna Consciousness Movement.
Although family lineage may be ultimately irrelevant when considering the appearance of an eternally liberated associate of the Lord, still it is interesting to see what sort of family is blessed with such a transcendental personality. As history shows us, Lord Brahma himself appeared in the family of Muslims as Srila Haridasa Thakura, and there are other instances of exalted persons taking birth in humble families. Still, as a point of interest, we may hear something of the lineage of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
His family line traces back to Lord Brahma from the descendants of Chitragupta, and they are known as the Brahma kayasthas. Bharata is in the 87th generation from Chitragupta, Bharadvaja is the 88th. After him came Angira, and after him appeared Brhaspati. In the 149th generation of descendants, Purusottama, son of Sivadatta, went to Bengal upon the summons of the King of Bengal, Adisura. Purusottama’s youngest son took sannyasa and became famous as Kanaka Dandi. In the 7th and 8th generations of Purusottama’s family Binayaka and his son Narayana Datta both did ministerial work for the king of Bengal. In the 15th generation from Purusottama, Raja Krsnananda, the king of Kheturi (in Bengal), and the father of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, the great Vaisnava acarya, appeared. Raja Krsnananda was also a great devotee and was personally favored by Lord Nityananda Prabhu. The 7th generation from Raja Krsnananda saw the appearance of Madanamohana Datta, who was very famous in Bengal and Calcutta for his spiritual qualities. His great-grandson was Anandachandra Datta, and his son was Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, whose 4th son was Bimala Prasad. The name Bimala or Shri Bimala Devi refers to the para sakti (internal potency) of Lord Jagannatha, so his name literally means the mercy of the internal potency of the Lord.
Bimala Prasad stayed in Jagannatha Puri for ten months after his appearance and then journeyed to Bengal by palanquin on his mother’s lap. He grew up in his early years in Ranaghata in the District of Nadia, hearing about Krsna from his mother. When he was a small boy, perhaps two or three years old, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura brought some ripe mangoes from the market. Bimala Prasad took one to eat, saying, “This is mine.” Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura got up and said in a grave voice, “What is this? New fruit has come into the house. It has not been offered to Giridhari and you have taken it first? Remember, new fruit is to be given first to the Lord. Without giving the first share to the Lord, nothing is to be taken.”
The child was very repentant and exclaimed, “Oh, what evil thoughts I have had! Throughout my whole life I shall not eat these again. This is the right punishment for one ruled by greed.” He made the promise and observed it throughout his whole life. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada comments on this incident: “Whenever we offered him mango he said, ‘No, I am an offender. I cannot take mango.’ He was thinking that I have offended [Krsna] in my childhood by taking the mango of the Deity. So this is the characteristic of the acarya. They teach by their life’s action-one should be so much determined. A child took the mango, there is no offense, but he took that vow.”
When Bimala Prasad was seven years old, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was constructing the Bhakti Bhavan in Calcutta at Ramabagana. During that construction, a Deity of Lord Kurma was unearthed. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura ordered his son to begin regulated worship of that Deity.
From the very beginning the boy used to hear the preaching of his father with rapt attention. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, as well as his audience, were amazed to see how a small boy could hear the topics of Krsna consciousness with such total absorption. By the age of seven he had committed the entire Bhagavad-gita to memory and could wonderfully explain the verses as well. Later on he was trained in publishing and proof-reading at Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s printing press in connection with the Thakura’s well-known spiritual journal the Sajjana-Tosani. At the age of eleven, Bimala Prasad toured the various places of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s lilas with his father.
Bimala Prasad had an eidetic memory. Whatever he would read once he could later recall with perfect clarity. He was trained in mathematics and astrology at the Sri Ramapura School, and he achieved such astounding scholarship that he was eventually awarded the title Siddhanta Sarasvati by his tutors, Pandit Mahesh Chandra Chauramani and Pandit Sundar Lal.
During this period he used to attend the Sunday weekly meetings of Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s Visva-vaisnava-raja-sabha and hear the Thakura lecture on the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu of Srila Rupa Gosvami. He was never known to study his school assignments, and while sitting at home, would replace those assignments with studies of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura’s Prarthana, Premabhakti-candrika and other devotional literatures. However, whatever questions he was asked by his teachers, he would
immediately answer, and he got excellent results on all of his examinations.
He used to debate everyone he met on all sorts of subjects. No one who argued with him was ever able to defeat him. Just as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had defeated a great scholar, Kesava Kasmiri at a young age, so similarly Bimala Prasad once, during his later college days, debated a scholar named Panchanana Sahityacharya, the disciple of Vasudeva Sastri, a very famous professor of that time on topics of astrological calculation. The debate was held in the home of Sri Rajendra Chandra Sastri and judged by him as well. After some discussion that scholar had to accept defeat. In fact, the scholar became so mortified that he could not check the calls of nature. After that, everyone was reluctant to debate him for fear of being defeated.
At the age of eleven, while in the fifth class, Bimala Prasad invented a type of short-hand writing called Bicanto, and it was during this period that he took a tour of the holy places with his father.
When the boy was in 7th class (equivalent to today’s eighth class), and about 13 years old, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura brought tulasi beads for his son from Jagannatha Puri and gave him the name of Hari and a Nrsimha mantra to chant which he executed very faithfully, along with the worship of his Kurma Deity, according to the instructions of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
At the age of sixteen, while his schooling continued, the books of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura formed the serious content of his studies. He also began writing books on astrology, and during this time he formed the Cirakumara Sabha or the August Assembly amongst his friends with whom he met regularly at Calcutta’s Beadon Square. There they used to discuss topics related to religion, and the members were required to take a vow of celibacy. The Society was formed with the purpose of giving people a chance to remain seriously engaged in worship of the Lord and detached from family life. But Bimala Prasad was the only one who observed his vows immaculately.
In 1892, at the age of eighteen, he took an entrance examination and entered Calcutta’s Sanskrit College. As before, he paid scant attention to the prescribed books, but he found the time to read all of the philosophical books contained in the library.
During his college holidays he would discuss the Vedas with the scholar Sriyukta Prithvidhara Sharma. Although Siddhanta Sarasvati had become learned in all six branches of Vedic knowledge: siksa (pronunciation), kalpa (sequences of Vedic sacrifice), vyakarana (grammar, especially the use of word roots, inflected words and sentences), nirukta (meanings of inflected words and word roots), chandah (recitation of Vedic mantras) and jyotisa (astrological and astronomical calculation), still to study the vyakarana, the grammatical branch of the Vedas, he approached the Pandit Prithvidhara Sharma. The Pandit praised him for his achievements and encouraged him to study the Siddhanta Kaumudi throughout his life. Siddhanta Sarasvati replied, “My life is for the single-minded cultivation of the teachings of Sri Caitanya, not for the cultivation of grammar. I have only studied the Vedas, the branches of the Vedas and their related parts in a secondary manner.”
In 1895 he left the college, as he was very eager to execute his worship of the Lord and to remain free from the pressure to enter family life. He stated in his autobiography:
“If I remain studying with careful attention at the College, then extreme pressure will be brought upon me to enter family life, but if I am considered to be foolish and inefficient, then no one will put such an inducement upon me for becoming so engaged. By this consideration, I left the Sanskrit College, and, in order to maintain my life for the service of Hari, I was desirous of getting an honest occupation which I could perform with the intention of earning a humble income.”
During his student days he also wrote essays on spiritual topics for various magazines and strongly condemned various religious malpractices which had become prominent in society. At the Bhakti Bhavan in 1897 he established a catuspathi (a small academy) called Saraswati Chatuspati where many learned persons from Calcutta attended his lectures and discourses on astronomy. He also published the magazines Jyotirvid and Brihaspati and other old astrological texts like the Surya-siddhanta, a famous and highly regarded Sanskrit astronomical treatise. Here he also established and edited the Bhakti Panjika, an almanac. He was well-acquainted with both the Eastern and Western branches of astrology, but naturally favoredthe Vedic one. He was offered a chair in astronomy at the University of Calcutta by Sir Asutosh Mukherjee, but Siddhanta
Sarasvati declined it, thinking it an impediment to his spiritual life. At the request of Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji he composed the Sri Navadvipa Panjika, a Krsna-ized almanac in which the months, lunar fortnights, days, lunar days, stars, etc.were all given names of Visnu. He did not spend very long in his astronomical pursuits, however, and soon dedicated himself fully to the worship and distribution of the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
He was also employed by the royal kings of Tripura from 1895 to 1905 in various services. Initially he accepted the post of editor, under Panchasrika Maharaja Virachandra Manikya Bahadur, and he edited a history of their family entitled Raj Ratnakar. During this time he studied all of the principal books in the Royal Library. A year later, however, the Maharaja departed from this world. The succeeding king, Maharaja Radhakisore Manikya Bahadur entrusted Siddhanta Sarasvati with the instruction of the sons of the king in Bengali and Sanskrit. The king also requested him to put an end to various cheating activities of persons who were misappropriating royal wealth. Siddhanta Sarasvati quickly stopped this nonsense much to the delight of the king. He assisted the royal family in different ways until 1905. At that time he requested to be given leave, and this was granted along with a full pension, which he accepted for some time and then later discarded.
During this ten year period many other significant events took place as well. In 1897 he began to strictly observe the vows of Caturmasya, including the practice of cooking for himself one preparation daily, taking the food from the ground and lying on the earth without any bedding or pillow. In 1898 he toured Benares, Prayaga, and Gaya with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and discussed philosophy with persons in the line of Sri Ramanujacarya. In 1899, Siddhanta Sarasvati published a number of articles on spiritual topics in the magazine called Nivedana, a Calcutta weekly.
Siddhanta Sarasvati had been engaged in regularly chanting the maha-mantra and a Nrsimha mantra given to him by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura when he was in the Seventh Class, and he had been worshiping the Kurma Deity (discovered in laying the foundation of the Bhakti Bhavan in Calcutta) since the age of seven. Without fail, he had been executing that worship and chanting since his boyhood, and from 1885 onward he had received special training in printing, editing, etc. at the press at the Bhakti Bhavan.
Thus, the young man was a very qualified candidate for becoming the disciple of a guru. Many pseudo-gurus (mantra-peddlers) of the sahajiya category wanted to have him as their disciple to increase their false prestige. After all, Siddhanta Sarasvati was a magistrate’s son, he was a strict renunciate from birth, he was learned and deeply attached to the scriptures. But Siddhanta Sarasvati was not interested in such pretenders.
In 1898, after Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had constructed his residence in Navadvipa Dhama at Godruma Dvipa and called it Svananda-sukhada-kunja, and sometime after the discovery of Lord Caitanya’s birth site by the Thakura and Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji, Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja arrived in Navadvipa Dhama to see the site of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s birth and to hear the discourses of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. When he arrived, he was singing in ecstasy. His only possessions were the tulasi mala which he wore around his neck and another set he kept in his hand for counting. He kept a
few books, such as Narottama dasa Thakura’s works: Prarthana and Prema-bhakti-candrika.
Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji had been performing bhajana for many years in Vrndavana. He was extremely renounced and was the disciple of Bhagavata dasa Babaji, the disciple of Jagannatha dasa Babaji. He was not well-educated and had been a grain-merchant in his previous existence, but it was widely known that he was a liberated paramahamsa of the highest caliber in the area of Vraja-mandala.
At the time of his arrival, he was wearing a cap made of tiger skin and was carrying a basket of various items and materials for his service. He spotted Siddhanta Sarasvati and offered him four or five pieces of knotted rope for chanting rounds, a tilaka stamp with the initials for Hare Krsna, the tiger skin cap and paraphernalia for worship. Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja had received the basket and cap from his spiritual master, Bhagavata dasa Babaji. Siddhanta Sarasvati was very attracted to Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji’s lotus feet at first sight. He was later to comment with great humility:
“I have been busy within this material world trying to bring sense gratification within the grasp of my hand. I have often thought that by obtaining the objects of sense gratification, all my short-comings will be fulfilled. I often attained different facets that were indeed very rare, but my own personal short-comings were never mitigated. In this material world I have had the association of very high-class, aristocratic persons. However, seeing their various deficiencies, I could not offer them praise. The most merciful Supreme Lord Sri Gaurasundara, seeing me in such a lamentable condition at such a time of adversity, gave permission to His two dearmost devotees Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji to grant their blessings to me. Because I was always intoxicated with a worldly false ego, wanting again and again self-appraisal, I deprived myself of my own real benefit. But because of the influence of my previous births’ activities in devotional service, I came into the association of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who was the form of my spiritual well-wisher.
“My spiritual master [Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji] would go and visit Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and many times would reside with him. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, out of his compassion for other living entities, pointed out my spiritual master, Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji. Upon seeing my spiritual master, the extent of my worldly false ego diminished. I knew that all the other living entities who have taken the human form of life were also fallen and low like myself. But by gradually observing the spiritual character of my master, I realized that only a Vaisnava could reside in this material world and be of exemplary character.”
At Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s urging, the young man approached Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji for initiation in the month of Magh of the year 1900. Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji expressed reluctance to accept him, knowing Siddhanta Sarasvati to be a great scholar. Finally, when Siddhanta Sarasvati pleaded with him for initiation, Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji replied, “Mahaprabhu will be asked. If He gives permission, your desire will be fulfilled.” On another day Siddhanta Sarasvati approached him again and asked, “What was Mahaprabhu’s order?” Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji replied, “I forgot to ask.” The third time Babaji Maharaja was requested, he replied, “I asked. I did not receive the command of Mahaprabhu.” Siddhanta Sarasvati then stood up, his heart breaking, and said, “You [Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Gaura Kisora] are both worshippers of Krsna, the Crest Jewel of Debauchees, therefore why will you take mercy on someone dedicated to ordinary morality like me? In His pastimes as the exemplary teacher, Mahaprabhu has given instructions on the worship of Krsna, the Crest Jewel of Debauchees. Therefore, why will He give the command to take mercy on me? But, karuna na haile kandiya kandiya prana na
rakhibe ara-If there is no mercy, weeping and weeping, I can sustain my life no more. If I do not receive your mercy I do not see any need in holding onto life.”
After thus indicating his readiness to take his life, Siddhanta Sarasvati began to cry. Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji’s heart was melted to see this, so he told him to take bath in the Sarasvati and then come back to him. At the time of initiation, he gave Siddhanta Sarasvati the name: Sri Varsabhanavi-devi-dayita dasa.
This pastime bears a striking resemblance to the relationship between Narottama dasa Thakura and Lokanatha Gosvami-[Lokanatha Gosvami was also an extremely humble and renounced paramahamsa who was reluctant to take any disciples, considering himself unqualified, but finally accepted Narottama dasa Thakura as his only disciple.] It shows how eager and determined one must be for the mercy of a pure devotee of Krsna.
In 1898 Siddhanta Sarasvati had accompanied his father to Kasi, Prayaga and Gaya and had gathered many facts about all these holy places, which were later incorporated into his commentary on the Caitanya-caritamrta called Anubhasya. In 1900 he published a book called Bange Samajikata, which described the origin, location and philosophy of various societies, castes and religions, and he expounded the clear superiority of Lord Caitanya’s doctrine of inconceivable, simultaneous oneness and difference. In March he accompanied Bhaktivinoda Thakura to Orissa where they visited the temple of Ksira-cora-gopinatha at Remuna, and also saw Bhubaneswar and Puri. While in Puri, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura decided to build a place for bhajana just near the samadhi of Srila Haridasa Thakura, and so Siddhanta Sarasvati stayed and served his father in various ways, assisting him in establishing his Bhakti Kuti by the sea.
At that time the Maharaja of Kasimbazar was camped nearby, and he came regularly to hear from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Siddhanta Sarasvati. Siddhanta Sarasvati was giving regular classes from the Caitanya-caritamrta in the presence of his father, and many listeners were assembling just to hear it. The famous Radharamanacarana Dasa Babaji used to come at that time to hear the discourses.
Later relations with the Babaji were broken because of two deviations by him:
1. He introduced the chanting of Bhaja Nitai Gaura Radhe Syama Japa Hare Krsna Hare Rama. This was introduced with the idea of stopping the audible chanting of the maha-mantra. The first problem with this was that the concocted mantra had the faults of siddhanta-virodha-an opposing conclusion and rasabhasa-conflicting rasas. The second problem was that trying to suppress the audible vibration of the maha-mantra was against the desire of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as established by His activities and teaching, as well as by the teachings of the Gosvamis. Rupa Gosvami had written in the Prathama Caitanyastaka, text five: hare krsnty ucchaih-”Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu chants the Hare Krsna mantra in a loud voice …” Therefore, Rupa Gosvami, an eyewitness to the activities of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and recipient of His full blessings and empowerment for establishing His mission, personally testifies here that Lord Caitanya did not confine the maha-mantra to inaudible muttering, but loudly proclaimed it to all.
2. Radharamanacarana Dasa Babaji also introduced the Sakhibheki doctrine by dressing his follower Sri Jayagopala Bhattacarya as Lalita Sakhi. This was against Mahaprabhu’s teaching as well, as an ordinary jiva was being worshipped as though he were an expansion of Srimati Radharani. Both Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Siddhanta Sarasvati instructed the Babaji to give up these fallacious practices, but he refused. Siddhanta Sarasvati began to preach publicly and strongly against these misconceived teachings, proclaiming that the maha-mantra is for both japa and kirtana, and that kirtana is ultimately superior to japa. This created quite a controversy in Puri with many taking the side of the Babaji out of misplaced sentiment and others siding with Siddhanta Sarasvati.
During this period Siddhanta Sarasvati was engaged in the compilation of a Vaisnava encyclopedia which contained an explanation of Vaisnava terminology, brief biographies of great Vaisnavas, an introduction to the books of the Vaisnava acaryas, a description of the Vaisnava tirthas, the various conclusions of Vaisnava sects. etc. He called it Vaisnava-Manjusa-Samahriti, and it was later published in four volumes. A Vaisnava scholar commented on it by saying, “This work is only possible for a supra-mortal, a great personality like Prabhupada Srila Sarasvati Thakura. Even if 25 to 30 scholars and 10 to 15 men taking the treasury of a king began the work, they would be unable to edit it.” The work of compilation was begun in Puri and continued as Siddhanta Sarasvati made his preaching rounds of Sri Mayapur-dhama, Sri Jagannatha Puri-dhama and Sri Vraja-dhama. He also studied the books of Srila Madhvacarya and Srila Ramanujacarya and published some of them in Bengali. He also published biographies of these and other Vaisnava saints in the Sajjana-Tosani magazine of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
He toured South India in 1904 and again in 1905-places like Tirupati, Srirangam, Singhachal, Raj Mahendry, Madras, Perambadur, Conjeveram, Kumbhakonam and Madurai. While on tour he collected all the information about the rites and rules of Vedic tridanda Vaisnava sannyasa from a Ramanuja tridandi swami at Perambadur. Wherever he would go in his travels he would lecture, write and debate the learned panditas of the day. He soon acquired such a reputation that his name would strike fear in the hearts of his philosophical adversaries. All bogus cults and sects were doomed in his presence.
However, in Puri, Siddhanta Sarasvati experienced such severe oppression and censure due to his preaching against the rhyming kirtana and sakhibheki doctrine of the popular Radharamanacarana Dasa Babaji that finally Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura instructed him to go and perform bhajana near the Yogapitha, the birthsite of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
In 1905, at the age of 31, he began his great vow, following the example of Namacarya Haridasa Thakura, of chanting three lakhs of names (192 rounds) per day. He determined that at the rate of 300,000 names daily, it would take about 9 years to complete one billion names. He resided in a grass hut at the Yogapitha for four years, and in February of 1909 he built a cottage near the Yogapitha at Vrajapattana (town of Vraja) on the site of the house of Sri Candrasekhara Acarya, the uncle of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This place is considered to be non-different from the banks of Radhakunda. There he remained,
uninterruptedly executing his chanting. He strictly followed his vow and observed Caturmasya, cooking rice (which had been dried in the sun) in ghee and eating it from the floor in the manner of a cow. He would take rest lying on the ground, never using any pillows and constantly chant and study the scriptures. Seeing his renunciation, his Gurudeva, Srila Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja said, “I observe that the renunciation of Sri Rupa-Raghunatha is manifest in my Prabhu.” He used to address his disciple as “my Prabhu.”
In commenting on this period Srila Prabhupada states, “From childhood he was a strict brahmacari, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja. And he underwent very severe penances for starting this movement: world-wide movement. That was his mission.”
When the roof of his kutir became broken, rather than take time away from his chanting, he would simply use an umbrella when it rained and go on chanting. Sometimes, he had to go to different places, but he continued very strictly and completed his vows always.
In 1906 Sri Rohinikumara Ghosh, (the nephew of Chandramadhava Ghosh Mahasaya, a former justice of the Calcutta High Court), had a wonderful dream, and as a result approached Siddhanta Sarasvati for initiation. The boy had gone to stay with some Bauls, a so-called guru and his consort who he was instructed to address as “Mother” and “Father”. These persons were actually sinful rascals in the guise of devotees, but while he was in Mayapur, he had the good fortune to hear from Siddhanta Sarasvati for a long time. He returned to the place of the Baul, and feeling ill, he lay down to rest. In a dream, the Baul took the form of a tiger and the consort, the form of a tigress. They were about to devour the unfortunate lad who was trying his best to take shelter of Lord Gaurasundara. At that moment Siddhanta Sarasvati arrived on the scene, chased the tigers away, and began to lead him to Mayapur. The boy awoke at daybreak and proceeded to Mayapur where he heard discourses from Siddhanta Sarasvati for several days. Finally, he begged for initiation from his savior so feelingly that Siddhanta Sarasvati took mercy on him.
Prior to this, Siddhanta Sarasvati had never given initiation to anyone. His character was such that he never regarded his disciples as his disciples, but he used to see them as being that which was received from the lotus feet of his guru. He used to address them as “Prabhu.” In his address to the Gaudiya Math’s first Vyasa-puja, he has addressed his disciples as, “My friends, rescuers from danger.” He also wrote, “If a Vaisnava does not do the work of a guru, then the spiritual Vaisnava lineage will stop. Again, if he does the work of a guru, then he becomes a non-Vaisnava. For if a guru thinks, ‘I am a guru.’ then the first ‘u’ letter in the word guru disappears (the word becomes ‘garu’ or cow). A real guru does not make disciples and thus remains a guru. Here we see Siddhanta Sarasvati giving a very strong warning about entertaining the conception of overlordship or being the master of anyone. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada observed that when he offered obeisances to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, he used to return, “Daso ’smi”: “I am your servant.” And in a lecture in 1973 on the occasion of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s Disappearance Day observance, Srila Prabhupada in the same ecstatic mood spoke, ‘Anyway, it is by his grace I was forced to give up my family life, and he brought me some way orother in preaching his gospel. So, this is a memorable day. What he desired, I am trying a little bit and you are all helping me, so I have to thank you more. You are actually representatives of my Guru Maharaja, because you are helping me in executing the order of my Guru Maharaja. Thank you very much.”
In the course of Siddhanta Sarasvati’s travels throughout India he became much pained at the erroneous teachings of many pseudo sects and sahajiya groups. There arose in his heart a burning desire to widely preach the true siddhanta according to the desire of the Six Gosvamis and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Although Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji ordinarily never allowed anyone to touch his feet, he had voluntarily placed his feet on the head of Siddhanta Sarasvati and ordered him to preach extensively and advised him, “… to preach the Absolute Truth and keep aside all other works.” Siddhanta Sarasvati said of
this occasion: “On receiving just a touch of the lotus feet of my Sri Gurudeva, I lost all sense of this external world. I do not know whether any transcendental agent equal to him in greatness has ever appeared in this world. How may those, who are busy with the lust, anger, etc. of the world ever know him?”
The Gaura Mantra
Later in 1911 a controversy surfaced, challenging that the name Gaura in the Gayatri mantra chanted by Gaudiya Vaisnavas was not an eternal name of Godhead, was not found in the original Vedas, and that Lord Caitanya was not an incarnation of Godhead, but rather, by His own admission, a devotee of God.
Although it is clearly established in the pages of Caitanya-bhagavata and Caitanya-caritamrta that Lord Caitanya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, there were some persons who did not believe that His position as an avatara was revealed in the original Vedas. Of course one actual proof of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s divinity was the darsanas He provided to a number of exalted devotees during the maha-prakasa manifestations in the home of Srivasa Thakura, to Lord Nityananda as a six-armed Visnu form, as Sad-Bhuja to Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, as Radha-Krsna to Srila Ramananda Raya, and so on. These proofs along with many convincing verses supplied by Krsna dasa Kaviraja and Vrndavana dasa Thakura in their Caitanya-caritamrta and Caitanya-bhagavata, repectively, were sufficient for reasonable men. But the more stubborn worldly scholars and critics wanted proof from the original Vedas. The smartas objected to the worship of the Deity form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and claimed that the Gaura-mantra was not an eternal Vedic mantra.
Siddhanta Sarasvati cited proof from the Sruti, particularly from the Caitanyopanisad from the Atharva Veda:
sa hovaca: rahasyam te vadisyami, jahnavi-tire navadvipe
golokakhye dhamni govindo dvibhujo gaurah sarvatma
maha-puruso mahatma maha-yogi trigunatitah sattva-rupo
bhaktim loke kasyatiti. Tad ete sloka bhavanti
Brahma said: “I shall tell thee a secret! On the bank of the Jahnavi, at Navadvipa, which is called Goloka Dhama, shall Govinda, in a two armed form, as Gaura, the Great One, the Great Mystic, Who is transcendental to the three modes of material nature, and Whose form is eternal, reveal Bhakti to the world! There are a number of verses in that regard.” [Text 5].
Other evidence was cited from the Svetasvatara Upanisad, as well as the Smrti, Tantras, Puranas, and especially the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Siddhanta Sarasvati addressed a large assembly at Navadvipa’s Bada Akhada Hall, where many erudite scholars had gathered, headed by Sri Madhusudana Gosvami Sarvabhauma. He forcefully and brilliantly proved the eternality and glory of the Name, Form, Attributes, etc. of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Although Siddhanta Sarasvati was unaware of it, Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji was there in one corner of the meeting, and when he heard Siddhanta Sarasvati’s lecture he was
extremely pleased with him. All of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas who heard the discourse were filled with bliss and began to chant Siddhanta Sarasvati’s glories again and again. Due, in large measure, to Siddhanta Sarasvati’s strong preaching on this point throughout his life, the Deity form of Sri Caitanya. Mahaprabhu is now worshipped and accepted all over India as the eternal form of the Lord, and many thousands have received the Gaura mantra with great faith and for eternal benefit.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada commented on Siddhanta Sarasvati’s strong preaching against the caste gosvamis and smartas:
“My Guru Maharaja’s contribution is that he defeated the caste gosvamis. He defeated this brahmanism. He did it the same way as Caitanya Mahaprabhu did. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya, yei krsna tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya: ‘There is no consideration whether one is a sannyasi, a brahmana, a sudra, or a grhastha. No. Anyone who knows the science of Krsna, he is all right, he is gosvami and he is brahmana.’
“This was my Guru Maharaja’s contribution. And for this reason, he had to face so many vehement protests from these brahmanas of the caste gosvamis.
“Once they conspired to kill him-my Guru Maharaja told me personally. By his grace, when we used to meet alone he used to talk about so many things. He was so kind that he used to talk with me, and he personally told me that these people, ‘They wanted to kill me.’
“They collected twenty-five thousand rupees and went to bribe the police officer in charge of the area, saying, ‘You take these twenty-five thousand rupees. We shall do something against Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and you don’t take any steps.’ He could understand that they wanted to kill him. So the police officer frankly came to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati: ‘Of course, we accept bribes, and we indulge in such things, but not for a sadhu, not for a saintly person. I cannot dare.’ So, the police officer refused and said to my Guru Maharaja, ‘You take care. This is the position.’ This was because he so vehemently protested.
“When my Guru Maharaja was present, even big, big scholars were afraid to talk with even his beginning students. My Guru Maharaja was called ‘living encyclopedia’. He could talk with anyone on any subject, he was so learned. And no compromise. So-called saints, avataras, yogis-everyone who was false was an enemy to my Guru Maharaja. He never compromised. Some Godbrothers complained that this preaching was a ‘chopping technique’ and it would not be successful. But those who criticized him fell down.”